The Uefa Women’s Player of the Year has set the tone by firing the Catalan club back to the top domestically and in Europe, writes Martin Whiteley.
On-field leadership is important in any team and Barcelona hope to continue their recent trophy-laden success under the stewardship of club stalwart Alexia Putellas.
Alexia has had a trial run over the last two seasons as she often led the side out in the absence of club captain Vicky Losada. When the 30-year-old made the move to Manchester City in the off-season, it was an easy decision to promote Alexia to the skipper’s role on a full-time basis. She has flourished with the extra responsibility, becoming the heartbeat of Barca and Spain’s midfields.
The Primera Division leaders were without the influential 27-year-old due to a calf injury for their Champions League clash last Thursday but the midfielder marked her return with a goal in the 5-0 demolition of Sporting Huelva as they extended their winning run to seven games at the weekend.
Born in Mollet del Valles, a town in the region of Barcelona, Alexia grew up a Barca fan and spent one year in their youth programme back in 2005. Despite her connections to the club, it was with cross-town rivals Espanyol that she spent four years in their youth side before making her first-team debut as a 16-year-old.
Internationally, Alexia played her part as Spain won both the 2010 and 2011 European Women’s Under-17 Championship. One season at Levante saw the talented midfield star finish as the club’s leading scorer with 15 goals.
In the summer of 2012, Alexia joined Barcelona after they had just secured their first title. In what became the first golden period for the Catalan giants they went on to claim three more in a row, before finishing second to Athletic Bilbao in 2016.
For the next three years, Barca were denied more title success by Atletico Madrid. Since then, though, they have not only regained domestic supremacy but become the leading side in Europe, with Alexia being a leading contributor.
Technically sound with both feet and with the ability to execute a range of passes Alexia has been dubbed the perfect Barcelona midfielder. As well as helping her team-mates to find the back of the net, the new captain also regularly chips in with double-figure goalscoring campaigns herself.
The Spain star can also use her head too. This point was demonstrated perfectly when she leapt majestically to flick home a Caroline Graham Hansen corner to become the first female Barcelona player to score at the Camp Nou in their 5-0 win over Espanyol back in January.
The influence that Alexia has on her team at the moment was further illustrated when she was recently named Uefa Women’s Player of the Year.
Although Barca eventually won 2-0 to claim their second straight Group C Champions League win in Denmark against HB Koge last week, it was certainly not one of their most polished displays. Even with all the quality in their ranks, performances can still drop down a notch when their skipper is absent.
With Alexia back at the weekend domestically, and on the scoresheet too, it was business as usual for the Catalan side. Already Barcelona have notched up 43 top-flight goals this term while only conceding one — and Alexia looks well on her way to another double-digits campaign having scored eight so far.
As far back as her time with Espanyol, the undoubted talent that Alexia had was quickly noticed. With someone with those qualities now at the forefront of this Barca team, it will certainly be no surprise if they continue to rack up trophies for many more years to come.
Follow Martin on Twitter @673martin